Ferrer, class stage musical at Paco Park

The workshop class of Alegria O. Ferrer, DPA, staged the musical Mayo… Bisperas ng Liwanag in celebration of the National Heritage Month last May 22 at Paco Park.

Ferrer, a professor at the UP Diliman (UPD) College of Music Department of Voice, Music Theater, and Dance, directed the musical.

Mayo… Bisperas ng Liwanag is an adaptation of the short story May Day Eve by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, and features the libretto of National Artist for Music Fides Cuyugan-Asensio and music by Rey Paguio.

Anastacia of Mayo…Bisperas ng Liwanag. Photo from Ferrer

In an email the UPD Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts forwarded to UPDate Online, Ferrer said her class “managed to come up with a full production and filled up the venue to an SRO (standing room only) crowd.” She added that Cuyugan-Asensio was present at the event.

Below is an article by lawyer Agnes Bailen on her experience watching Mayo… Bisperas ng Liwanag:

A Mirage of Love in May

By Agnes Bailen

May 24, 2024 was a memorable night for me. It was my first time to watch Mayo…Bisperas ng Liwanag. Under the direction of Alegria Ferrer, DPA, a multi-awarded faculty of the UP College of Music (CMu), eight singers, filled the St. Pancratius Chapel in Paco Park with their voices. Though sometimes overwhelmed by the strong sound system, these talented performers impressed the audience as they sang the libretto of [National Artist for Music] Fides Cuyugan-Asensio which was set to music by Reynaldo T. Paguio. From the moment Al Gatmaitan, who portrayed Badong, entered the scene holding a stem of bougainvillea flowers, he mesmerized the crowd with his compelling presence and wonderful voice. The baritone singer was also impressive. Angeli Benipayo, who played Agueda, is fast becoming a known soprano in the musical scene and her beautiful rendition of the songs together with her beautiful face captivated a lot of the audience that night. The best part of the musical for me was when Benipayo (Agueda) sang the “salamin aria” with Tasia, who was portrayed by Margarita Lugue. For a newcomer to the opera scene, Lugue held her own among the more veteran performers for her big and powerful voice, and her diction helped me to understand better what she was happening in the show. 

I would have appreciated the “salamin aria” better with both sopranos standing in front of a mirror and when Agueda repeated the mirror spell when she was alone before Badong surprised her with his drunk appearance. But the lack of props made me focus on the singing and artistry of the performers.

Perhaps, it was intentional on the part of Director Ferrer to do away with the props or with a mirror and introduce the bougainvillea flowers in the one hour musical. Perhaps it was to highlight the naturalness and simplicity of the thorny stem of bougainvillea flowers to show the spurned if not ill-fated love of Badong for Agueda. Such flowers depicted the passionate and everlasting love of Badong for Agueda which bloomed from a romantic illusory love that May Eve from a magical mirror.

Ferrer (center) and Cuyugan-Asensio with the cast of Mayo…Bisperas ng Liwanag. Photo from Ferrer

I appreciated how Director Ferrer introduced opera that night to the audience comprised mostly of young people. Taking advantage of this Heritage month show sponsored by public-private partnerships, many young people and opera aficionados braved the Friday traffic to watch the show. Opera is foreign to and intimidates a lot of Filipino viewers. But if we want more Filipinos to experience the beautiful and classical world of drama set into music often in the Philippines, it is important to introduce opera to them. Thus, when magic realism is used to show Philippine reality through opera interspersed with Filipino beliefs, folklore, and culture like what National Artists Nick Joaquin and Cuyugan-Asensio and talented musicians Paguio and Ferrer did in Mayo, we might find the elixir that will inculcate and promote our heritage particularly our music, our love of country, Philippine history, culture, and the arts in the present generation especially among the youth from whom the next batch of artists, writers, historians, and heroes would come from.

Event poster. Image from Ferrer

When the musical ended around 7 p.m., I was happy to note that most of those who attended the musical were young Filipinos in their twenties. What made it more marvelous was the presence of the librettist and our Fides Cuyugan-Asensio who gave her steadfast support to Director Ferrer, her former music student at the CMu. If we continue to promote musical productions and nurture the talents of the young, we might be able to produce a strong artistic, literary, and musical community that will knit Filipinos together as we build a stronger, loving, and united Philippines.